Welcome Prospective PhD Students

Admissions

We appreciate your interest in the PhD program at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. We invite applications from diverse, bright and passionate individuals who are committed to a high level of achievement in their academic, personal and professional lives.

Our program is considered one of the best in the United States in preparing scholars for advanced research careers in social work. As such, the PhD candidate selection process is rigorous, reflecting our emphasis on academic achievement, initiative and motivation. Our goal is to make students competitive for the best available positions here and abroad.

FAQs

Toggle
General Program Questions

What are the basic requirements for admission to the doctoral program?
Candidates must have a master’s degree in social work or related field, excellent undergraduate and graduate academic records, and participation in independent research. International applicants must also have a satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

What materials are required for the PhD application?
All applicants must submit a Graduate Admission Application, statement of purpose, resume, transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended, four letters of recommendation, TOEFL scores (international students only), evidence of financial support (international students only), PhD information form, PhD career plans and goals form, and scholarly writing sample. Further admissions information and downloadable admissions materials may be found in our Application Process section.

Is a Master of Social Work (MSW) required for admission to the doctoral program?
A Master of Social Work (MSW) is strongly encouraged for potential applicants because it shows a thorough understanding of the field of social work. However, we will also consider a master’s degree from a related field (sociology, psychology, etc.). Applicants without a master’s degree can apply to the school’s MSW program or MSW/PhD dual degree program.

What is the MSW/PhD dual degree program?
The MSW/PhD dual degree program is offered only to exemplary students seeking the uppermost advanced research-based study in social work. The program is designed to produce high-ranking scholars who will make significant contributions to the knowledge base of the profession in social work academia. It leads to both the Master of Social Work (MSW) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work graduate degrees. Applicants must meet all standing admissions requirements for both the MSW and PhD programs.

Do you offer the PhD program online?
No, neither the PhD program nor the MSW/PhD dual degree is offered online. You must be a full-time student at the University Park Campus.

Does the doctoral program accept transfer students?
On the rare occasion that we accept transfer students from another doctoral program, their applications are reviewed by the doctoral committee on a case-by-case basis. All transfer students must apply through regular admission to the PhD program. Each transfer student application is then individually reviewed to evaluate courses already taken and determine a possible course of action. The transfer of post-master’s degree doctoral course work from another institution will only be considered if a grade of B or higher (A=4.0) has been obtained, and the course has been completed within the last five years. Transfer of credits must be petitioned and approved by both the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the graduate school. For complete transfer credit information, please refer to the USC Catalogue.

What if I previously applied to the PhD program?
If you previously applied to the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work PhD program, you must submit a new Graduate Admission Application and PhD Information form. If you applied within the last two years and are satisfied with the materials you previously submitted, you have the option to use the previously submitted letters of recommendation, TOEFL scores, and transcripts for your current application. TOEFL test scores (for international applicants only) must be taken within two years of the application deadline.

Do you accept part-time students?
Due to the rigorous and demanding requirements of the doctoral program, we do not accept part-time students. Both the doctoral program and the MSW/PhD dual degree program require students to be full-time students on the University Park Campus.

Who is required to take the TOEFL?
All international applicants must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), with the exception of applicants who earned both their bachelor’s and master's degrees in the United States.

Is the GRE required? 
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no longer required for admission to our doctoral program.

What is the profile of the incoming doctoral class?
The USC Graduate School is committed to providing detailed information on the inputs, outcomes, and overall characteristics of its PhD programs, for the purposes of full transparency and to support informed decision-making. It can be viewed at their website: https://graduateschool.usc.edu/about-us/phd-program-characteristics/

When should I apply?
All application materials must be received by the university by December 1 to be considered priority applications. Completed application materials will be accepted until January 1, but they will be considered late and may not be reviewed for admission for the next fall. Visit the Application Process.

Is it possible to send my application materials in several installments?
No.  Application materials for admission are ONLY available online in Graduate Admission Application. Please visit the Application Process for the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work in the PhD Program.

How long does it take to process my application?
It is crucial to have part one and part two application materials received at the university by December 1. It takes about 30 days for part one application materials to be processed by the USC Office of Graduate Admission and uploaded to the system for review. It will take another four to six weeks for the school to review all application materials.

How can I be sure that all my application materials have been received?
The PhD program will send you an email confirmation after January 1 about the status of your application materials. Please make sure you have an updated email address on file. You may also receive a notification from the USC Office of Graduate Admission about outstanding application materials. Please respond promptly to requests for information and materials from both offices.

When should I expect to hear about my admission decision?
The doctoral committee will review applications for fall admission in late January. Those applicants we are interested in admitting will be invited to an all-day campus visit in late March. Official admission letter notifications will be sent by early April.

What can I do to improve my chances for acceptance?
Strong applicants typically show great academic promise, as evidenced by above average achievement in undergraduate and professional education, participation in research and publications, professional competence as demonstrated through substantial experience and contributions to the social work field, above average TOEFL scores, and above average grade point average.

Toggle
Financial Aid Questions

What are the basic requirements for admission to the doctoral program?
Candidates must have a master’s degree in social work or related field, excellent undergraduate and graduate academic records, and participation in independent research. International applicants must also have a satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

What materials are required for the PhD application?
All applicants must submit a Graduate Admission Application, statement of purpose, resume, transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended, four letters of recommendation, TOEFL scores (international students only), evidence of financial support (international students only), PhD information form, PhD career plans and goals form, and scholarly writing sample. Further admissions information and downloadable admissions materials may be found in our Application Process section.

Is a Master of Social Work (MSW) required for admission to the doctoral program?
A Master of Social Work (MSW) is strongly encouraged for potential applicants because it shows a thorough understanding of the field of social work. However, we will also consider a master’s degree from a related field (sociology, psychology, etc.). Applicants without a master’s degree can apply to the school’s MSW program or MSW/PhD dual degree program.

What is the MSW/PhD dual degree program?
The MSW/PhD dual degree program is offered only to exemplary students seeking the uppermost advanced research-based study in social work. The program is designed to produce high-ranking scholars who will make significant contributions to the knowledge base of the profession in social work academia. It leads to both the Master of Social Work (MSW) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work graduate degrees. Applicants must meet all standing admissions requirements for both the MSW and PhD programs.

Do you offer the PhD program online?
No, neither the PhD program nor the MSW/PhD dual degree is offered online. You must be a full-time student at the University Park Campus.

Does the doctoral program accept transfer students?
On the rare occasion that we accept transfer students from another doctoral program, their applications are reviewed by the doctoral committee on a case-by-case basis. All transfer students must apply through regular admission to the PhD program. Each transfer student application is then individually reviewed to evaluate courses already taken and determine a possible course of action. The transfer of post-master’s degree doctoral course work from another institution will only be considered if a grade of B or higher (A=4.0) has been obtained, and the course has been completed within the last five years. Transfer of credits must be petitioned and approved by both the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the graduate school. For complete transfer credit information, please refer to the USC Catalogue.

What if I previously applied to the PhD program?
If you previously applied to the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work PhD program, you must submit a new Graduate Admission Application and PhD Information form. If you applied within the last two years and are satisfied with the materials you previously submitted, you have the option to use the previously submitted letters of recommendation, TOEFL scores and transcripts for your current application. TOEFL test scores (for international applicants only) must be taken within two years of the application deadline.

Do you accept part-time students?
Due to the rigorous and demanding requirements of the doctoral program, we do not accept part-time students. Both the doctoral program and the MSW/PhD dual degree program require students to be full-time students on the University Park Campus.

Who is required to take the TOEFL?
All international applicants must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), with the exception of applicants who earned both their bachelor’s and master's degrees in the United States.

Is the GRE required? 
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no longer required for admission to our doctoral program.  

What is the profile of the incoming doctoral class?
The USC Graduate School is committed to providing detailed information on the inputs, outcomes, and overall characteristics of its PhD programs, for the purposes of full transparency and to support informed decision-making. It can be viewed at their website: https://graduateschool.usc.edu/about-us/phd-program-characteristics/

When should I apply?
All application materials must be received by the university by December 1 to be considered priority applications. Completed application materials will be accepted until January 1, but they will be considered late and may not be reviewed for admission for the next fall. Visit the Application Process.

Is it possible to send my application materials in several installments?
No.  Application materials for admission are ONLY available online in Graduate Admission Application. Please visit the Application Process for the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work in the PhD Program.

How long does it take to process my application?
It is crucial to have part one and part two application materials received at the university by December 1. It takes about 30 days for part one application materials to be processed by the USC Office of Graduate Admission and uploaded to the system for review. It will take another four to six weeks for the school to review all application materials.

How can I be sure that all my application materials have been received?
The PhD program will send you an email confirmation after January 1 about the status of your application materials. Please make sure you have an updated email address on file. You may also receive a notification from the USC Office of Graduate Admission about outstanding applications materials. Please respond promptly to requests for information and materials from both offices.

When should I expect to hear about my admission decision?
The doctoral committee will review applications for fall admission in late January. Those applicants we are interested in admitting will be invited to an all-day campus visit in late March. Official admission letter notifications will be sent by early April.

What can I do to improve my chances for acceptance?
Strong applicants typically show great academic promise, as evidenced by above average achievement in undergraduate and professional education, participation in research and publications, professional competence as demonstrated through substantial experience and contributions to the social work field, above average TOEFL scores, and above average grade point average.

USC student on outdoor steps
Admissions Criteria and Application Process

Learn about admission process to the PhD program at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and criteria requirements. All application materials must be received by the university by December 1 to be considered priority applications. 
Learn More.

Hands with world map
International Applicants

Learn about the additional admissions criteria and documentation required as part of the PhD application process as an international applicants (those who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States).
Learn More

piggy bank graduate
Financial Aid

All incoming students All accepted and admitted students in the program and who remain in good academic standing receive financial assistance for the first four years, amounting to $200,000.
Learn More.

tommy trojan

PhD Admissions

Malinda Sampson, PhD Program Manager

Contact Us
Office of PhD Admission
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
669 W. 34th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0411
applyphdsw@usc.edu

Malinda Sampson
PhD Program Manager
213.821.7657
msampson@usc.edu